Make phone-free family dinners a tradition like any other

April 6, 2023
Rich Donnellan

Every spring tens of thousands of people flock to Augusta, Ga to attend The Masters, arguably the most prestigious golf tournament in the world. There are many unique things about this tournament, but my favorite may be that it remains a phone-free event. Fans, or patrons as they are called at Augusta, are strictly prohibited from bringing phones onto the property. People come from all over the world and spend thousands of dollars to happily keep their phones in their cars for an entire day.

Don't think it makes a difference? Let’s look at a picture of Tiger Woods teeing off at The Masters today vs Tiger teeing off at a different tournament this year. I’ve attended many golf tournaments, including The Masters, and I can tell you it just feels different when people aren’t walking around with their heads down or watching the tournament through their phones.

Fans watching Tiger Woods on their phones VS patrons taking in the moment at The Masters

The Masters is commonly referred to as “A Tradition Unlike Any Other”. That slogan is actually printed on The Masters t-shirt I am wearing at this very moment. This got me thinking about the traditions of my family and our home - “What do I want our traditions unlike any other to be?”

The first one that jumped out at me was family dinners, specifically phone-free family dinners. Then I realized that this shouldn’t be unlike any other tradition. Referring to something as “unlike” means it is unique.

Why should quality time, away from our phones, be unique? It should be the norm. Unfortunately, dinners interrupted by phones are the norm these days. 

My kids are young. I have two boys (4 and 2). Dinner time can be chaos with kids that age, but we (and I can’t give my wife enough credit here) do our best to wrangle them and sit at the table or kitchen island for a meal. By now, our kids know mom and dad’s phones go in Aro during that time too. It’s just habit at this point, and if we forget, they remind us. 

As they get older, and schedules get more hectic, time with them will be harder to come by. I try to remind myself that 75% of the time I will ever spend with them will be by age 12. Knowing this, why the heck would I let something like my phone get in the way of time that I can never get back and moments I know I will regret missing? 

I’m not talking about staring at my phone for a whole meal. All it takes is a quick glance at my phone for my kids to shut down. Picture this - they look up from their chicken nuggets to ask me a question and see the top of my head or the back of my phone. Not only did I just miss a moment with them, but that act made them feel like my phone was more important to me than they are. And I’m showing them that it’s ok for them to act this way. I’m modeling a terrible relationship with my phone.

So, I intentionally choose to do the opposite. I put my phone away at dinner. I look them in the eyes. I model great habits for them, and I sure as heck don’t miss out on those moments that I will never get back.

Remember that picture of fans watching Tiger at two different golf tournaments? One with phones, one without. Here’s one that plays out in homes across the world every day. Which one do you want to be? 

Don't let your phone get in the way of moments with your family, no matter how small they may seem

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